What I'm Into Right Now (Jan 2019)


I took a break from this series for the months of November and December. I’ve learned to be gracious with myself during the busy holiday seasons. But I’m excited to share some of what I’ve been into lately and I hope you’ll share with me either in the comments, on Facebook, or Instagram!

Josh and I binged Homecoming with Julia Roberts on Amazon Prime. Not only was the plot fascinating, it was stylish and reminded me at times as a mix of Alfred Hitchcock meets the X-Files. I feel like the trailer really doesn’t do it justice. Just try it and see if it’s for you after watching the first episode.

The kids and I finished the final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It has so many levels of clever wit! And who can deny the utter adorable smartness of Sunny Baudelaire? We all loved it!

We are currently watching War & Peace and it is so well done. I read it in high school and quite honestly I don’t remember the plot at all and only recall being highly confused about who was who and what was going on. However, from what I have read this latest version seems very true to the book and it is beautifully shot and acted by Paul Dano, Lily James, and James Norton. I was glad to see that the film adaptation also touches on the classic Tolstoy themes of death, finding meaning in life, and the search for spiritual significance.

Speaking of Tolstoy, I’m teaching a high school class of World Literature for our homeschool co-op and we are in the middle of Anna Karenina right now. I am reading it and listening to this version which I think is done quite nicely. This is my third time through the novel and always find more layers of meaning each time I read it.

The kids and I are listening to Esperanza Rising for book club too. At first they didn’t like it. I think they had a hard time following it with all the Spanish words thrown in. But now they don’t want to stop. We are not far from the end and really enjoying it. It has already brought up great discussion on immigration and what it means to strike.

After a long break I am also enjoying the Pray As You Go app again. It used to be really glitchy but it has been updated beautifully and has a new look and is better functioning. I listen to it almost every morning while drinking my coffee.

I’m working my way through Beartown since so many of my friends recommended it. I have to put Anna Karenina first in my reading schedule to have what I need read each week to teach, so Beartown is a bit on the back burner. Having a hard time getting into it. So many recommended it (who’s reading tastes are similar to mine) I’m sticking with it. Also one friend said it was a bit slow in the beginning so I am pushing through.

I’m pretty obsessed with sourdough bread right now. You can follow my board on Pinterest if you are interested in sourdough yourself. I have used this recipe most consistently and this website is full of tips and information.

What are YOU into right now?

What I Read in 2018 (Fiction)


My fiction selections were way stronger this year as opposed to last year, which had lots of misses in-between the hits. This year I noted which titles were audio selections. I hope out of this list you will get some new novels to add to your own reading list this year!

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie**** (audio)
I watched the film first and then decided it was time to finally read this classic crime novel. It was great as audio (read by Dan Stevens, aka “Matthew” from Downton Abbey) and of course the end is so unique handing the reader a real moral dilemma to consider.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie****
I mean, you can never go wrong with Christie!

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher****
I attempted reading this book a year ago, but it didn't connect. This year it did. It took a bit to really get engrossed but once I did, I'm so glad I read it. It's the type of writing style I enjoy and the story has a lot of depth. The last few paragraphs made me tear up--in the best of ways!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare***** (audio)
I really wish Speare had more novels! I love them all so much. No one really writes with the quality of this period of books. I can't ever quite put my finger on what I love so much about "older" writing. I hadn't read this since I was a girl and really forgot most of the plot, so it was like a totally fresh book. I liked it just as much as I did when I first read it. It held up just as well for me as an adult--maybe even better--than it did when I was a kid.

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare**** (audio)
Sometimes middle grade novels really are the best! Young Miriam must come to terms with her prejudices and think through her preconceived ideas about the cultures she encounters when she is captured by Indians and lives in the wilderness and then is sold as a prisoner to French Catholics.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey***
I really loved the characters and the style of writing. It's almost a "scrapbook" in style, which adds to the story.  I DID have to slug my way through portions of it. I got a bit stuck, especially in the early parts and almost gave up, it's such a huge book. But the second half I liked better. I also like the "magical realism" the author included, which was inspired by native Alaskan mythology.

In the Woods by Tana French****
My first Tana French. It was a “slow burn” sort of crime story.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham***
When I first became familiar with the Tulsa race riot of 1921 (which I only learned about a few years ago) I was shocked and horrified. So I was interested and nervous to read this YA novelized version of it. The book definitely reads YA in tone but the topic is one more people need to remember. The blight of the Tulsa race riot is a horrific memory in our nation's history that is often conveniently "forgotten."

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles***
This was not for me. I forced my way through the entire thing. I appreciated Towles writing ability but I just could not get into it.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan***
I found myself in a reading rut at this point. After Rules of Civility this one also wasn’t for me. I wanted to like it but it was just okay. I liked the cover more than the book.

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich****
A brutal but quiet book with great writing and a difficult story. I thought the ending had closure, although the "why" was never answered and I don't think there was an answer to be had anyway. The book is about how a tragedy can change lives and pull people together and apart.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell**** (audio)
A great psychological thriller! A perfect blend of plot, character development, and description in my opinion. I listened on audio and loved all the accents. However, there ARE triggers. There is a sexual assault episode which is not glossed over. It could easily be skimmed past, however, because it pretty much is one main scene. Also, if you don't want to read the F-bomb than this book is not for you, because it is used often. ;)

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley*** (audio)

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley***** (audio)

As the Chimney Sweep Comes to Dust by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley**** (audio)

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley**** (audio)
I am not going to review each of these books but will just say that the series is one of my favorites! Flavia de Luce is a character like no one else! Bradley is masterful writer (just look at those titles) who develops his characters with precision, the feel of time and place is masterful, and his plots always become page-turning. I love all the literary references and his ability to write a metaphor is incredible. I’m sad to think that there is only one more novel in the series left!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson****
At first I thought the book was weird. I mean, I knew the premise, but could I read 529 pages of the same but different life? Then I wondered when the plot would start? Was it all going to just be little vignettes? But then I got into the rhythm and soon I had to find out what was going to happen to the Todd family. This is a thought-provoking book that makes you think about the choices you make, and how they direct your life. What if you stood here vs. there? Meet this person or don't meet them? In the end, I think this book has the making of a classic. I especially enjoyed all the literary references and Ursala's life/lives during the Blitz. It made that awful time more alive to me and emphasized the strangeness of war and everyday life.

A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert***
A fun cozy type of mystery. Think a Hallmark movie in book form, so at times, it verges on cheesy, but a nice summer-type of read.

A Confusion of Languages by Sioban Fallon****
This book was better than I expected it to be, it immediately swept me into the story. The structure was interesting, as was the setting, middle-eastern Jordan.

The Likeness by Tana French*****
I liked this a lot better than In the Woods. Although the plausibility of the premise was one you definitely needed to suspend belief, I didn't mind it. It made for such a cool story. I really enjoyed getting to know Cassie more (she was in book #1 too).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen***** (audio)
Delightfully read by Rosamund Pike I absolutely loved revisiting Austen’s world again.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman****
This one grabbed me from chapter one and never let go. And yes, tears were running down my face by the end.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen***
I have enjoyed Allen’s other magical realism titles and I did find this one enjoyable too, but not quite as good.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan***** (audio)
I ADORED this book. I listened to it on audio and it enhanced the experience dramatically. Since it is a novel written in letters the different voices was a wonderful addition as was the music throughout the recording.
I had attempted listening to it once earlier in the year and couldn't get into it. But several months later I tried again after seeing a favorite bookstagramer talk about how much she loved it. I'm so glad I did because it is probably my favorite book of 2018 tied with the Flavia de Luce series. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society I think this might be the book for you.

What was your favorite fictional book of 2018?

What I Read in 2018 (Non-fiction)


It was a good reading year for me! As I look over my list from the past year I see that in terms of non-fiction I read a lot of books with either a spiritual or educational/parenting focus. This was driven by my desire to particularly focus on helping my dyslexic kids in their educational journey. One thing that is missing is biographies and narrative history, which I love but just didn’t get to. Next year I hope to at least get one or two books of that genre into my rotation.

Books can earn up to five starts (*****) in my numbering system, five being excellent!

Different: The Story of an Outside-The-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson and Nathan Clarkson ****
Sally Clarkson’s books are always an encouragement and this one was unique because it was co-written by her son. The story shares what it was like to parent as well as to be a child who had learning differences, anxiety, and clinical OCD. The chapters alternated between Sally (the mother) and Nathan (the son) giving different perspectives to their experience and offering hope who might be walking a similar journey.

Founding Mothers: Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts*** (audio)
This was the only biography/narrative history I listened to in 2018. It was at times a highly editorialized history, with Roberts inserting herself rather frequently. That added to the "chatty" quality that wasn't terrible but sometimes seemed to lack professionally. I did love learning about some women I never had heard of: Mercy Otis Warren and Mary Katherine Goddard for instance. Goddard was the original printer of the Declaration of Independence right here in Baltimore! 

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot***
This one didn't speak to me as much as "A Lamp Unto My Feet" or "Be Still My Soul” which I thought were better compilations.

Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields*****
Refreshing and encouraging! This should be the first parenting book anyone reads, by doing so it will lay a great foundation and help them weed out all the parenting books they DON'T need to read.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass*****
A MUST-READ for anyone interested in narration. She explains with clarity what it is and is not, how to use it in a classroom, how to use it with kids with learning difficulties, how to move from oral to written narrations from age 6 to high school.

Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson*****
With chapter titles like "Books Can Stir You to Action" and "Books Can Foster Community" Sarah Clarkson's Book Girl is a joyful manifesto of all the good that books bring to our lives. Almost every chapter has a booklist too, so lots more titles to consider adding to your reading list!

Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking By Faith by Jon Bloom*****
Gritty, earthy, imaginative while staying true to scripture. I read this as a devotional, reading the scripture each chapter was based on. So good!

Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins*****
I read this for the second time. Written in a conversational—sometimes sarcastic style—I learned a lot from Cindy’s memoir on homeschooling.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Every Life by Tish Harrison Warren****
I enjoyed reading this thought-provoking book (with cool chapter titles) a little bit each morning.

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp*****
This is my favorite Ann Voskamp book and this is my third time reading it as my Advent devotional. Always speaks to me.

Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah by Cindy Rollins****
I definitely enjoyed this more than my kids did! We listened our way through Handel’s Messiah for Advent this year. It was very easy to follow along with this book as a guide.

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain by Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide
A book every parent and educator must read about dyslexia. The first half of the book is dedicated to brain science while the second discusses more practical application in the skill work of reading and writing and how that applies to different ages. Focusing on the STRENGTHS of dyslexia is important too, because there are strengths as well as weaknesses. And the teacher/student/parent knows the weaknesses only too well, so it is equally important to tap into the strengths.

What was YOUR favorite non-fiction book this year?